My Life In Taiwan
I first moved to Taiwan in 1998 and intended on staying for one, possibly two years. Obviously, I have overstayed and stayed until 2003.
Originally I chose Taiwan because my brother had married a Taiwanese girl and while touring the small Island for their wedding, I fell in love with the place. My bro and his wife were living at home in The UK so it wasn’t a case of following him there, in fact he has never lived here.
Over the course of this lens I am going to highlight some of the things that make my life here feel so great and try to give you an insight not only into why I am still here, but also I hope to teach you a thing or two about Taiwan.
It is not just the place where toys used to come from.
Like most native English speakers, I did the easy thing and got a job teaching English. I got myself qualified with a TEFL certification, although I probably needn’t have in the long run as a lot of schools will take you without one. The TEFL certification is a very useful one though and I don’t regret doing it. It also made my first few months’ teaching a lot easier.
I work in a cram school or “Buxiban” which is one of literally thousands. Mine is a chain school with around 50 different schools in Taiwan, and it is British-based, so I think that helped me ease into the new culture. It really helped to know that there were fellow ex-pats within my teaching circle and it helped me find friends from the beginning.
Teaching English itself has its ups and downs, like any job. It is very rewarding (and sometimes frustrating), and the money isn’t going to make me rich, but is enough to live a decent life (with only 20 hours a week might I add). Taiwan also has a low cost of living so that makes our money go further.
I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of doing it, but it is important to research the country and culture of your destination before you go. Many people seem too concerned with whether or not they want to teach and ignore the fact that it is getting yourself immersed in a completely new language and culture that will be the real challenge.
Education takes a high importance in Taiwan and virtually every student will attend a cram school for one subject or another (sometimes multiple) after they have finished their high school, or elementary school, classes for the day. It is a “hard” life for students, very competitive and right up until they graduate from university they will be spending most of their time studying. That is a topic for another day.
How Much Do You Know About Taiwan?
I joined a football (soccer) team early on in my Taiwan life, and it really helped me find a home away from home. Our team is made up of British, American, German, Kiwi, Mexican, Spanish, and Irish players, and has featured many more over the years.
I’ve traveled all around Taiwan with the team, even making it over to an international tournament in Manila, Philippines once.
Despite the social aspect of the team, we like to be as competitive as possible, and this year we were the Champions of the Taipei Ex-Pat League. There are over 10 ex-pat teams in Taipei and around 20 in Taiwan, so the ex-pat football circuit is great.
My Favorite Places In Taiwan
In my time here I have traveled a lot around the island and present my top places to visit, they are in no particular order, as I just can’t decide.
- Taipei – A great place to live and one of the safest, most convenient cities I have ever been to.
- Hualien, Toroko Gorge – Such a beautiful place.
- Ching Jing Farm, Nantou – If you can manage to get up the mountains to this farm, it is a great day out.
- Alishan (Mt. Ali) – My favorite of the mountains
- Kenting – Far in the south of Taiwan, near the southernmost point, is the small beach town of Kenting, beautiful and hardly disturbed.
Smiley, Food Loving People
One of the first things you will do in Taiwan, is be taken to a Night Market. The Taiwanese are very proud of their night markets, and are also big food lovers, so what better place to go for dinner or some late night snacks than a market place?
Wander down past the various stalls buying a bit of this, a bit of that, and a bit of I’m not sure what that is, or just choose one restaurant and eat there. To a westerner, you might find it overwhelming some of the things you can buy there (frogs anyone?) but you can get lots of very familiar things such as noodles, fried rice, chicken etc.
Watch out for the chicken feet or chicken bums though!
I could cover this in about seven different lenses, so will have to keep it short here, but needless to say, the night market is a wonderful place.
As you can see, even the rain doesn’t keep us away!
Taiwan is in close proximity to China (who lay claim over it), Japan (who used to occupy it) and Korea (who pretend they haven’t heard of it). Next to those heavy-weights, Taiwan often becomes forgotten or lost. Everybody has HEARD OF Taiwan but few people really KNOW it.
That is not actually a bad thing though. I like the fact Taiwan is not full of tourists and people trying to make money off you like many countries in Asia, particularly South-East Asia. I also think it is more intimate and many other ex-pats end up staying here for a long time. I often meet people who have toured around Asia doing a year here and there, before settling in Taiwan.